New Mexico Deer Hunting Adventure | Coues Whitetail | Darren Choate
It was the third morning of my New Mexico deer hunting adventure. My only chance for coffee intake would be on the 10-minute — 15, if I milked it — drive from camp to the trailhead. Leaving a half-a-cup of coffee in my travel cup behind, my hunting partner (my son, Colton) and I quickly gathered our gear and set out on the trail. The quarry: My first New Mexico Coues buck; hopefully, a 100-inches or bigger.
The light from our headlamps bobbed and weaved in the darkness, unveiling most of the obstacles on the dark trail. The air was crisp, not cold. After just a few minutes on the trail, the off-trail bushwhacking began. Finding our way through the maze of understory brush on the steep hillside was similar to how the initial stream of water felt cutting the Grand Canyon. Still, it was “par for the course” regarding Coues whitetail hunting, however.
As the initial rays of light first escaped over the mountainous horizon to our east, we were only halfway into our jaunt. Perhaps my attempt to take a few extra sips of coffee put us slightly off schedule. The final ascent to the pre-determined glassing point left us gasping for air, our calves and quads on fire. No matter the physical shape you are in, you’ll know when you are in Coues whitetail country. On this New Mexico deer hunting trip, we knew all-too-well we were in Coues country!
Having arrived at the vantage point, we sat and began to glass. From the south, the wind gathered steam, hitting us from behind. A few minutes in, we found the group of bucks that we had seen the day before the hunt and again on opening day. That day, the small bachelor group of bucks and one doe quickly made their way up and over the steep hillside. This day, they browsed contently on the same hillside. From our vantage the bucks were at least a half-mile away, we would have to get closer.
Following my son’s directions, I moved ahead, further up the steep grade to the next vantage point, another small rock outcropping. Once there, I re-found the bucks in my 15s and signaled to Colton to come up the hill. The game of leapfrog continued until I was positioned 630-yards from the feeding bucks. At that point, there was no way to get closer. Backed by the confidence in my setup, I prepared for the shot. Using a large, flat rock as a shooting platform, I set up my custom 7mm Remington Magnum, topped with a Sig Sauer SIERRA3BDX 6.5-20X BDX riflescope. My spotter, Colton, watched from nearby, as I ranged the deer on the opposite hillside with the KILO2200BDX rangefinder. The distance: 650 yards.
As soon as I pushed the button on my rangefinder, a lighted aiming point illuminated on the vertical bar of the scope’s reticle. I eased into position, aimed, and began to put pressure on the trigger. As I prepared to make the shot, it was difficult NOT to notice the body size of the target. It was the largest-bodied Coues buck I had ever seen. The buck’s rack was no slouch either. After a few moments of self-induced “hiccups,” I placed the aiming point on the buck’s vitals and squeezed the trigger; the buck dropped!
An hour later — having traversed 1,500 steps down the hill and 1,500 steps up the other side — I put my hands — and tag — on the mammoth-bodied, 100-plus-inch, New Mexico Coues buck.
NEW MEXICO DEER HUNTING | COUES WHITETAIL
Draw a Tag
The Coues whitetail inhabits only a small fraction of the state of New Mexico. Therefore, the units in which to hunt them are limited. However, there are three weapons choices as options including archery, muzzleloader, and rifle. Generally speaking, archery season encompasses the first three weeks of September, muzzleloader occurs in mid-October, and rifle (any-legal) seasons begin in November and extending into December. Again, generally speaking, the draw odds of the available hunts fall in the same respective order with archery being the easiest to draw. For more information regarding New Mexico Coues whitetail deer seasons, their application process and draw odds, contact the New Mexico Game and Fish Department or consider opening an account with one of the following subscription services.
goHUNT | www.gohunt.com
Top Rut | www.toprut.com
Hunter’s Trailhead | www.hunterstrailhead.com
Scout at Home
Regardless if you’re a nonresident like myself or a New Mexico resident, with the wealth of information available online today, there’s no excuse for NOT having a good game plan once you arrive at your hunting location. The best place to start is Google Earth and it’s available online. After you have a basic understanding of the GMU or specific area you may/will be hunting, the next step is to move to a paid service. In my case, I thoroughly put the onX servers to work while searching for glassing points, potential water sources, and likely feeding and bedding areas before I ever stepped foot onto the GMU I would be hunting. The onX software is available online and via an app. The features that make it work for me are the available overlay layers including wilderness and roadless areas, recent and historic burn data, and game management unit borders to name a few. All of that can be overlaid on the topo or satellite map (toggle between) to gain a real understanding of the country you’ll be hunting. When the time is right, it’s all downloadable to your phone and can be used while offline. For more information on the onX software app, visit www.onxmaps.com.
Core Coues Gear
The process of hunting the Coues whitetail is largely hike, hike, and then hike some more — the majority uphill — followed by sit and glass, glass, and then glass some more. From that, you can probably easily extrapolate three vital gear items: boots, optics, and a pack for those and ancillary gear items. Of course, on top of that, there is the required weapon with its associated gear. Below is the list of gear that I carried and relied on for this hunt.
I hope you too can draw a tag and set off on your own New Mexico deer hunting adventure; I hope it’s for my favorite quarry, the Coues whitetail. If and when you do, good luck!